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Discovering the tragedy of being from Toronto



A couple of days ago I actually asked a B.C. boy if he had ever heard of Powell River.

He said: "That's like me asking you if you've ever heard of Barrie."

Once again, I had exposed myself as an outsider, as someone who has not been born and bred in B.C.

This same boy continued to stare at me with an expression of partial disbelief and partial disgust. He was giving me the look that says: "You are so obviously from Toronto, which you consider to be the centre of the universe."

It's a fairly familiar look.

After spending my university years in Halifax, I have become accustomed to the same expression.

Upon reaching Dalhousie, I was automatically branded with the Upper Canada stigma by the locals, as were all the other thousands of students who had descended on the city from southern Ontario.

We quickly realized that we would never be true Maritimers – we would never know what it was like to grow up in Stephenville, Newfoundland or Antigonish, Nova Scotia. We were different and more importantly, we quickly learned that we were poorer for this difference.

To give you some idea, one friend even wrote a song about us to the tune of "Farewell to Nova Scotia."

It went a little something like this:

"Farewell to Upper Canada and all your stinkin' lakes

Go back to your homes and expensive real estate."

At one point he tells us to "take your Birkenstocks and hit the road and don't come back."

It wasn't the subtlest of all messages. And although it was written and performed tongue in cheek, there was still an underlying element of truth there.

The lyrics continue along the same disparaging lines throughout the course of the song and the point was that although we are from the same country, we are in fact very different.

One of the biggest differences between us was the fact that the Maritimes have an affinity and pride for the East Coast that most people from Ontario just don't have. In fact, more often than not during those university years, I found that I was embarrassed to admit that I was from Toronto, as though it was something that I should be ashamed of, something for which I should apologize. I wanted to be from the Maritimes and to have grown up steeped in such rich traditions and culture.

At the risk of stereotyping an entire section of the country, I found that true Maritimers were a breed apart – a people unique to themselves. Their songs and stories define them as East Coasters.

And it's the same in B.C.

After only being here for a couple of months, I've noticed that Western Canadians are also very different compared to people from Ontario.

The way of life is different. The attitude is different.

Just as in the Maritimes, British Columbians also have an affinity for their province and are almost glad that they don't have to admit that they are from Ontario.

One of the strangest things that I noticed about both places is that most of my friends on the East Coast and the West happen to be from southern Ontario and are more than happy that they are no longer living there.

For many it would seem that there is no more draw to go back home except for the odd family reunion.

But I digress.

My point is that after spending four years on the East Coast, I was no closer to being a Maritimer or understanding the Maritimes than I was when I first arrived.

I was just wondering if it was going to be the same in B.C., particularly in Whistler.

In this quirky little town, where everyone seems to be from somewhere else, how long is it until you get to consider yourself a local?

Do you have to be born and raised here? Do you have to put in five years or 10 years? Or maybe you just have to stay more than one season to be in the club?

Or should I just face up to facts now and realize that even if I'm here for years, I'll never really be a local, even if I do all my grocery shopping at Nesters.

I've only been here for two months so I haven't paid my dues yet. And I guess that even if I live here for the rest of my life, I still have to face the fact that I'm from Ontario and worse still, from Toronto.

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